Evidence of meeting #63 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was communities.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Wernick  Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for appearing before the committee. Welcome to your first testimony before this committee.

Minister, I have a couple of questions on the main estimates with respect to to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. I'm interested in this because with my private member's bill, I am trying to address this issue as well with regard to repealing the residential school clause out of the act.

How is the $707 million allocated in the main estimates for the continued implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to be used?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

In September 2012, a total of $725.6 million over four years was allocated to our department, Health Canada, and the RCMP for the continued implementation of the settlement agreement. Of the $725.6 million allocated, our department was allocated $147.5 million for 2013–14 to continue implementing our obligations as per the agreement, including administration and research required for the common experience payment, the independent assessment process, and document disclosure to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Our department was also allocated close to $600 million, exactly $559.8 million, to issue compensation payments to IAP claimants, for a total of $707.3 million in 2013–14. The net increase of $224.5 million is the result of $482.8 million in previous approvals that sunset in 2013–14, partially offset by approved funding of $707.3 million provided in budget 2012 and from the Department of Finance.

That is how this $707 million will continue to implement the agreement.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

In the estimates, it indicates an increase of $224.5 million in funding for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. What is the status of the settlement agreement?

March 7th, 2013 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

We discussed this briefly with the member on the other side.

The implementation began in September 2007 following the agreement reached between the legal counsel and all the parties, so we are diligently fulfilling our obligations under the court-ordered agreement, including all its components.

As you may know, although September 19, 2011 was the application deadline for the common experience payment, applications were accepted until September 19, 2012, in cases of disability, undue hardship, or exceptional circumstances. As of December 31, 2012, a total of 105,540 applications were received under the common experience payment. Of these, 102,548, or 97%, have been resolved. It's a serious accomplishment in progress, and $1.62 billion has been paid to 78,750 recipients, representing 98% of the 80,000 estimated eligible former students.

Serious and meaningful progress has taken place and we are confident that all the terms of the agreement will be settled within the timeframe imposed by the court and agreed to by the parties.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Mr. Minister.

That brings our questioning to an end for you, Minister. We thank you for your time. We appreciate the time that you gave to us. We look forward to having your officials here for the remainder of this meeting.

We'll now suspend, colleagues, and will return shortly.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Colleagues, we'll call this meeting back to order.

We'll return to the questioning of the officials.

We'll begin with Dennis Bevington, for the next five minutes.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the witnesses for being here today.

I want to go to the nutrition north program and deal with some of the issues surrounding it. You're of course aware that the cost of living in northern communities, according to Statistics Canada, has gone up and has doubled in comparison to the rest of Canada.

What we see here is that the dollars for the nutrition north program have remained the same and have actually declined from expenditures that have been made in previous years. You're not budgeting for any increase, even though the cost of living has gone up and the cost of transportation has gone up. Can you explain why there isn't any increase? The population numbers for the regions have probably gone up as well. You have no increase showing here.

9:50 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

No, the answer to many questions is the mains are a snapshot before the next federal budget. The program budget will depend on some decisions we look forward to in the next budget.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

So you agree there are some issues with the statistics, the population and the cost of food in there. Why has the department quit monitoring the food basket costs in a variety of northern communities?

9:50 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

As you know, the program has shifted to subsidizing the retailers. We have much deeper, richer, broader data because there is point of sale information from cash registers. This is the 21st century now, so we can get from the electronic cash register very precise information on which commodities are receiving the subsidy. There's a lot of data available on the program, far more than there was under the old food mail program. We can track by commodity, by community, the changes from quarter to quarter and from year to year in a way that was just not possible under the old program.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Are you releasing that data on a regular basis?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

It certainly can be.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

It can be?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes, I think we're putting it out roughly quarterly and we're making it available to the advisory committee on the program.

The other variable...and it's not just population, it's which commodity you want to subsidize by how much per kilo. You can also adjust it by community. You can have different rates in different communities in different commodities. The program can be fine-tuned in a way the old food mail program never could be.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Okay.

Under your budget here you show a large increase under “Northern Land, Resources and Environmental Management”. Could you explain to me how you're planning to invest those moneys?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Could you point out which page or line you're referring to? It would be easier.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

That would be on page II-179 and it would be under “Northern Land, Resources and Environmental Management”, page 179.

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We're trying to find the right page.

It's a shift in the profile of contaminated sites projects. As you know, we have a portfolio of projects and they move from fiscal year to fiscal year. It's just a change in the work plan associated with remediation.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Where would that have come from?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We've got increased resources.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

No, where would that have come from in the budget? If you're moving resources from one area to the other, where would it come from?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

No, we move them from year to year. The projects are on various timelines and money gets paid out as work is done. If it's not entirely needed in one year, we spend it the following year, and it's an accounting for the fiscal year.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Are those funds also what you run your various departments in the three northern territories on as well, or are they simply for contaminated sites?

9:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

The bulk of it would be the actual remediation, which is usually done by third party contractors, and there's a small staff complement, as you know, that supervises the projects.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

So you don't separate in any way the dollars that you're expending in the three northern—